CASE STUDY: E-mail builds customer base for purveyor or architect tools

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Passaic Parc proved e-mail's merit in a recent test campaign for Charrette Corp., a supplier of design tools for architects, engineers and design professionals.

The Wellesley, Mass., agency wanted to drive customers to the e-commerce site, and drafted a campaign including a direct mail postcard, e-mail and a print ad in trade magazine Cadalyst. The campaign specifically targeted computer-aided design professionals to sign up for Charrette's free eCad program, through which members receive information and discounts on relevant products online.

The postcard and e-mail efforts tested a number of lists. On average, 5% of the total e-mail recipients signed up to be eCad members, compared with a 3% response rate from the postcard.

"It's one of those wonderful observations when you find a medium that gets you a higher response rate at a considerably lower cost," said Robert Rosenthal, president of Passaic Parc, adding that the e-mail campaign cost 40% to 50% less than offline mail. "Now we'll work to roll out and max out e-mail, and then use direct mail as necessary to meet Charrette's objectives."

Charrette chose Passaic Parc because of its strengths in traditional direct mail. The e-mail response rate, which hit as high as 9.6% with some lists, surpassed the company's expectations.

"We were more surprised about some of the click-through in the e-mail response," said Charrette General Manager Dexter Bachelder. "We got up to close to 10% with some of our e-mail lists. That's pretty significant; that's a good use of marketing dollars."

The initial goal was to acquire members, but going forward, Charrette will leverage those relationships to spur transactions.

"You have to respect the way human beings start relationships," Mr. Rosenthal said. "We thought it would make more sense to say, `Hey, let's get to know each other first,' to build trust, and then start the monetary transactions."

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